Baldrige criteria expands   

By Candi S. Cross

One of three companies to earn a Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award in 1988, the year that the awards program was established, Motorola Inc. turned judges’ heads with a tenfold improvement initiative of zero defects in its products and services worldwide. At that time, the company claimed 99,000 workers and 53 facilities.

Judges commented, “Motorola’s managers literally carry with them the corporate objective of ‘total customer satisfaction.’ It’s on a printed card in their pockets. Corporate officials and business managers wear pagers to make themselves available to customers, and they regularly visit customers’ businesses to find out their likes and dislikes about Motorola processes and services. The information, along with gathered data through an extensive network of customer surveys, complaint hotlines, field audits and other customer feedback measures, guides planning for quality improvement and product development.”

Twenty years later, Cargill Corn Milling North America earned the award in the same manufacturing category for, among other strides: maintaining an error-free delivery rate of 99 percent from fiscal years 2005-2008; maintaining a team-based culture and matrix organization that fosters an environment of cooperation, communication, skill sharing and leveraging diverse ideas; and follow-through on a commitment to customers through community service.

Why is Baldrige important for your company today? According to Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige National Quality Program, the answer is that the criteria helps you think and act strategically, align your processes and your resources and engage your workforce and your customers. Since communication, productivity and effectiveness make up the backbone of any successful business, simply going through the exercise of completing the application will strengthen an organization’s core.

“Is addressing all the Baldrige criteria easy? No!,” exclaims Hertz. “But neither is achieving sustainable results in today’s challenging environment.”

Before setting out to reach that destination of performance excellence, note Quality Texas Foundation’s summary of a few additions to the 2009-2010 Baldrige criteria:

  • The Customer and Market Focus category traditionally accounted for satisfactory customer relationships. The new criteria embodies not only current performance but future excellence. Craig Anderson, president of Global Performance Systems Inc. adds, “Tectonic shifts in the competitive landscape continue to put customer relationships under stress and at risk. Baldrige has responded.”
  • In the past, the Work Process Management category stressed the identification of core competencies as part of designing work systems. However, more recently, the economic downturn has re-positioned core competencies into a company’s central definition and mission. Therefore, the criteria has moved core competencies to the Strategic Planning category. “Effective work process management remains important,” says Anderson, “but there is no point in achieving excellence in designing and deploying the wrong processes!” Be prepared to respond to questions such as: What are your short- and longer-term planning time horizons? How does your strategic planning process address these time horizons.  
  •  Sustainability and Societal Impact has made it into the top category, Leadership. Be prepared to respond to questions such as: How do you consider societal well-being and benefit as part of your strategy and daily operations? How do you consider the well-being of environmental, social and economic systems to which your organization does or may contribute?